Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of May 8, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • On May 28 elections will be happening at the local (city), regional and national level. The regional and local levels have 5 different political parties who are looking to either maintain or gain power to make changes. Leaders across the different parties are communicating messages for why people should support them and their party.
    • Pray for the people as they look to determine which candidate will best represent them in the coming years to make legislative decisions.
  • The regional government is building a new location for those who are affected by male violence. It will have space for women with children, women who are solo and for people who are in need of additional privacy or monitoring. They have double the number of spaces available over the last 5 years.
    • Pray for women & children impacted by the violence, men who are acting in this manner and workers who support those impacted.
  • Concern about the Basque Pubic health care system continues. A couple of weekends ago thousands of people in the 3 Basque capitals took to the street to protest the situation. Many are seeing that making certain types of appointments are taking months to get or that the local health care centers do not have enough staff to support the needs of the community. The leader of the system provided comments that contradict this view talking about the investments that are being made in the system, which have increased over the last 10 years.
    • Pray for those who are looking for care, the workers and leaders as they all work to navigate the current situation.
  • The effects of the low national birth rate are continuing to be seen. The latest area of impacts is in the education system. The number of students enrolled in schools over the last 5 years has dropped by ~8500, which has resulted in reduction in the overall number of classrooms.  Even some schools have closed or consolidated with others due to this drop. Another effect is the decrease in first communion in the catholic church, with another reason being secularization of the population.
    • Pray that young people will start to have a desire to have more kids and for leaders as they navigate the current situation.
  • Last year the price of electricity was the topic of considerable discussion as the price was very high. Thankfully this year the price thus far has gone down, with the daily rate recently being ~62€/MWh compared to ~178€/MWh on the same day last year. Another area where costs have also been high is food items. The local paper over the last year has shared the cost of the same items in February, March and now May. While the overall cost is being recorded at historic highs, thankfully this month saw a slight overall decrease, though some items in the list saw an increase.
    • Praise that people are seeing some lower energy bills after having high electricity  & gas bills. Pray for people as they look to determine the best way to spend their money.
  • Over the last several years a group of historians in Basque Country have been researching the biographies of soldiers with Basque heritage that participated in World War II. They believe in total ~2500 soldiers are in that profile, and they are working on biographies of 1600. Recently they made a presentation in Texas about their findings.  They also have a desire to have a monument built for the 85th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in either California, Nevada or Idaho where there is a large population of people with Basque heritage.
    • Pray for these historians as they look to show the contribution of Basque people during World War II.

The verse for the week:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of April 17, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Over Holy Week the province of Gipuzkoa saw a significant increase in the amount of tourists both national and international, with hotels being filled to somewhere between 85% to 95%. Also restaurants and tourist spots saw a similar large increase in tourism.
    • Praise that over the Holy Week Gipuzkoa saw a rise in tourism which is good for the economy
  • Basque Country is continuing to see the population between 18 to 29, which is ~44% of the population, not being involved in associations (sociedades, cultural clubs, etc.).  Several reasons where shared from they do not connect with them, change in habits and values.
    • Pray for the young people and organizations as they look to find ways to support each other
  • With the upcoming election in Spain on May 28 one of the local newspapers had an interview with the current President of Spain. A variety of topics were covered: unintended consequences of the new “only yes is yes” law, education, pension and labor reform.
    • Pray for the people as they look to determine which candidate will best represent them in the coming years to make legislative decisions.
  • Part of the economic engine in Basque Country is manufacturing. During the 1950s through 1980s it made up between 45% to 48% of GDP. It was declining to a low ~21% in 2010, recently it’s started to pick back up with 2021 showing an increase to 22%. The gap in the economy has been filled by services and construction.
    • Pray for the different economic sectors of the Basque Country as they look to provide sustainable jobs and income
  • The Basque Government shared recently that the fraud department, which is focused on job related incidents, had 24 cases of sexual or gender-based harassment reported in 2022. The previous 2 years they had 0. They are working to understand the difference. One reason stated is people are more aware of this type of behavior. Overall 2022 saw ~400 more reported irregularities.
    • Prayer from employers as they look to provide good working conditions for the employees.
  • Point of Interest: The recent winner of the Master Golf Tournament in Augusta GA was Jon Ram. He was born in Barrica, Biscay, Spain which is part of Basque Country. I just wanted to highlight that this region has a rich participation in international sports.

The verse for the week:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of April 3, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • The Basque Public Health Care system continues to be under strain. Some of the local clinics are having to reduce hours as they do not have enough staff to cover them. Another problem is the average number of days patients are having to wait before surgery. It is currently an average of 64 days versus before COVID being 49. The public health leaders are attempting to put measures in place to help reduce the time.
    • Pray for medical staff, leaders and patients as they navigate the different aspects of the healthcare system
  • The leader of the Spanish Pension system is communicating that currently they do not see a reason to delay the retirement age. The reason for this message is because of changes that are happening in the French retirement system. They communicated that the Spanish system is robust enough and is viable through 2050
    • Pray for the leaders of the retirement system. Also pray for those who are considering retiring as once that happens the wage is locked in except for cost of living increases and for those who are already retired as they try to make the salary they receive from the system work given the economic environment.
  • Recently the Spanish Congress passed an increase in the minimum payments for those on the retirement system. This will benefit more than 3 million people as they will see an increase over the next 4 years.
    • Praise that those in the retirement system are seeing an increase in the pay that helps offset some of the increases in the cost of living
  • Access to pornographic material by minors is something Non-governmental organizations and the government are investigating. France recently put a technology solution in place to verify those accessing the material were over 18. With the average of first access being as young as 8 and the average age 14, the government and others are looking for ways to ensure the material is only accessed by those of age.
    • Pray as solutions are being investigated for preventing access to pornographic material to those who are underage.
  • On May 28 elections will be happening here in Spain. During these elections new leaders will be selected at the local, regional and national level. Those choices will have an impact on the upcoming legislative calendars for what projects will continue and/or law changes that will be made.
    • Pray for the people as they look to determine which candidate will best represent them in the coming years to make legislative decisions.

The verse for the week:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of January 23, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • The Basque region was the second most generous region in Spain with donations to charitable organizations. The data showed the region had a 4% increase from the previous year.
    • Praise that the people in the Basque region continue to be generous with their money.
  • The general cost of food at the supermarket has increased ~16% which has impacted the types & quantities of foods being purchased, according to one of the local supermarkets.
    • Pray for families as they look to adjust to the rise in food costs.
  • Last year saw some changes to the labor laws for employee contracts with businesses. One year later some of the news is positive and some not so positive.
    • Pray as businesses look for employees & employees as they look for work.
  • This is an election year in Spain. Several primary races have already been held and Sunday May 28 is the date for general elections.
    • Pray for the candidates and those voting as they look to elect leaders for the next term
  • The public healthcare system (Basque name: Osakidetza) continues to have tension and negotiations are ongoing.
    • Pray for the healthcare workers, leadership, politicians and those needing care as they work through the situation.
  • The current Basque legislative had plans to address 36 different laws, to date they have only addressed 17. They are hoping to address the other 19 before the end of the legislative session in 2024.
    • Pray for the political leaders as they look to work through the remaining legislative calendar.

The verse for the week:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of November 28, 2022

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Violence against women has seen a 14% increase over the last year. This information was shared in the lead up to International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. A call center has already received ~2500 calls this year from women requesting help.
    • Pray for women, children, families and men impacted by these actions.
  • Currently ~80 minors are needing a foster home in Gipuzkoa. There are already ~380 in foster homes.
    • Pray for those who are in foster care and those still needing to be placed with a family.
  • A shortage of ~5000 skilled workers for Basque businesses such as plumbing, bakeries and construction are having a hard time finding trained workers. While others workers trained in fabrication, industrial robots and computing are having a hard time finding employment. A general concern exists with an aging population and not enough births the labor shortages will worsen.
    • Pray for those businesses needing workers and those looking for work.
  • Since 2015 the percentage of young people that want to have kids has been decreasing, with a 17.8% drop in the last 7 years. The reasons noted for the decrease are economic insecurity, culture changes and social priorities. Additionally, COVID-19 added to the uncertainty of them wanting to bring kids into this world.
    • Pray for those who are trying to determine if they want to have a child.
  • The debate about how Basque Country and Catalonia relate to Spain is a topic that will likely be put on the legislative calendar for 2024. Leaders from both regions believe now is the time to once again have conversation.
    • Pray for political leaders as they look to determine how these regions interact with Spain, the EU and the world.
  • In Gipuzkoa the number of homes that have been built for the different social programs are at historic lows. To address this shortage, plans are being made to start construction on 500 new homes before the end of the year.
    • Pray for those who are building them and those who are needing to find affordable housing

The verse for the week:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14–16

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of November 14, 2022

Prayers points:

  • Rising energy costs and inflation continue to be a concern for businesses, families and those on fixed incomes
    • Pray for all those who are being impacted by these rising costs
  • In 2021 people who desired to have their sex changed has doubled in Basque Country
    • Pray for the participants and those facilitating these changes
  • In Gipuzkoa aggression against women has seen an increase of 20% this year
    • Pray for the women, the men and other family members who have been affected by these aggressions
  • November 1 was a National Holiday for All Saints day
    • Pray for those who have lost loved one’s in the last year and that they may seek to better understand God’s plan for their life
  • Donostia’s new Catholic bishop Fernando Prado
    • Pray for him as he looks to guide the city’s Catholic churches
  • 2023 budget process for the Basque Government
    • Pray as leaders review spending and determine which projects to fund
  • Cost of medical care has doubled in the last 10 years as treatment costs have increased
    • Pray for the public system as it looks to secure funding to run
  • Spain has submitted its request for the next payment from the Next Generation fund
    • Pray for approval as the European Commision reviews the information submitted as these funds several different planned national and local government projects

The verse for the week:

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

Colossians 3:2 NLT

The Church is Out of Style

There was an article in the local newspaper recently explaining how the Basque society is more and more secular. The youngest Catholic priest in our province was interviewed and he was quoted as saying “we aren’t in style”, referring to the church. Part of his reasoning was that as society flourishes from a material and physical standpoint, it’s harder for people to recognize that they NEED God. Only a small portion of Basque society goes without their basic needs being met so many people don’t notice that they are missing something or someONE. It’s a beautiful area with amazing food and an intriguing culture, the world would tell you that it seems like paradise just as it is. 

The young priest went on to say that the church is more “ideological” than “evangelical”, meaning there is more talk about what we believe as opposed to sharing the Good News with those outside the church. He did seem hopeful for the future though as he is seeing more conversions among young people.

Another issue that should be addressed is that the average age of all of the priests in our province is 74, while the younger half of the priests are under 60. I’ll save you the mathematical thinking and tell you that this means that the older half are significantly older. This means that within the next 10-15 years, the majority of that older half will no longer be with us and there will be a massive shortage of priests, leading to fewer church services and even fewer opportunities for outreach. 

Amongst the other “church people” who were interviewed, one said we need to involve more laity (non-ordained people) and women, another said we need “less liturgy and more action” calling for more social justice work in the community, and yet another says we just need to be faithful and pray. On a personal level, when I tell people I am a Christian but I’m not Catholic, I’m often met with blank stares of confusion. They didn’t know that was even possible. So with all of these differing opinions, it’s easy to see why the church is considered “out of style”.

What would you do if you already thought you were living in paradise, then found out you could have even more? We have all of the physical needs met, but what about the emotional and spiritual needs? Internal peace and security are just as important as physical comforts, and those can only truly be found in a meaningful relationship with our Creator. It’s our job to show people that it’s possible.

Intentionality in Ministry

Ever since we moved to the Basque Country, we’ve been very intentional and specific about where we do our shopping, what restaurants we frequent, and how we spend our time. We make a point to talk to the people who work in the stores and restaurants we go to and have even exchanged phone numbers with some of them. They will stop and speak to us in the street and call us by name when we come into their stores and restaurants. The Basque culture is all about relationships and that requires investment. Yes, we could have the newspaper delivered to our home or buy a printer, but then we would miss out on building relationships with the people in the local office store. There are tons of restaurants we haven’t tried out, but then we miss out on being greeted with “Hola familia!!” when we go to the places where they know us and what we like to order.

These investments are starting to pay dividends. Just this week I went into one of these local shops and greeted the woman who works there like always. When I asked her how she was doing, I got the standard “good, thanks”, but she hesitated a bit and then started opening up about how worried she was about the war in Ukraine and the possibility of it turning into a world war. She exclaimed that there were problems all over the world and she was a bundle of nervous energy. I felt a strong sense from God to share the source of my peace with her, so I explained that when we stay focused on worldly events we will stay worried and anxious, but if we focus on God, we can have peace from Him. I told her that the Bible tells us this world is not our home, we’re only here temporarily. She told me that the fact that I was able to find peace during all of this was a “wonder” and was very interested in what I was telling her. 

This interaction would not have happened if she didn’t feel like I was a safe person to share this with, and that only happened after consistently going into her store for over 2 years. Building relationships with people takes time and a lot of effort, but when it gives us the opportunity to be heard when we share about our faith, it’s all worth it. Our prayer is that God will continue to put people in our paths that are open to hearing about this Good News, and that we can be bold in our faith as we talk to them. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

-Philippians 4:7

Who Causes my Problems?

It was my first outing after a particularly severe case of strep throat during our first year in the Basque Country.

I was getting my hair cut and I was talking with the stylist about all of the unknowns surrounding the current restrictions due to Covid and school for the girls, the seeming impossibility of making any sort of future plans, etc. In a culture where traditions and familiarity are deeply grounded, uncertainty breeds a whole new level of anxiety. She told me there is a common saying here: “Dios aprieta pero no ahoga”. Literal translation is “God squeezes but doesn’t choke”. She went on to explain that it means that even though there are many problems, God will not make it so severe that it kills us. This woman is not a Christian, but was sharing this phrase that she grew up hearing. I felt a strong stirring from God that I needed to respond somehow, even though this woman speaks very little English and I still couldn’t think straight due to just getting over strep throat, much less in Spanish. I told her that I believed God is always with us and helps us when we have problems, but God is not the one CAUSING the problems like the saying suggests. She seemed to be open to that idea (Thank you God for using me when I feel like I can’t be used!!), and we continued talking about other topics, but I couldn’t quit thinking about it. How do we share about a loving, trustworthy, gracious God when one of the underlying cultural beliefs is that God is the one causing their problems? The layers of culture are so important to understand in order to effectively do any sort of ministry. 

The culture in the Basque Country is an interesting mix of guilt, shame, and fear. When you share with a Basque person that something difficult has happened like an injury or illness, the typical response is “Que mala suerte!”, which means “What bad luck!”. Cultural norms here will tell you that things generally happen based on luck, or sometimes karma. It’s not uncommon for people to have cultural symbols of good luck near their front doors, along with a witch to protect them, and maybe even a cross somewhere in their house, just in case. Knowing all of this, how should one go about sharing the good news? Where does the God of the Bible fit into their narrative?

We share our personal testimony, but that often leads to them responding with “that’s good for you, but has nothing to do with me”. They don’t see any relevance for them.

We have honest discussions (AFTER listening carefully, addressing misconceptions and/or answering questions) – they are often very open to intellectual conversations/debate. What we have to do is to listen and have conversation without coming across like we’re arguing with them.

What if it’s true? This is a great question that encourages them to consider the possible implications of what we are sharing with them.

Our goal is to point them towards the God who entered the world to save them. This God is not the one causing the problems, though He can and often does use those problems, along with the lessons learned in dealing with them, in order to further His kingdom. The God of the Bible walks alongside us as we face these problems, and wants to walk alongside the Basque people as well. Will you pray with us that they would accept Him?